Six Weeks After Reelection, Obama Sells Out Liberal Democrats

After the election Kerry Eleveld wrote a piece for The Atlantic titled “Why Barack Obama Will Be a More Effective Liberal in His Second Term.”

“In response to their initial disappointment with the president’s early performance, many progressives speculated that Obama was just waiting for a second term to be more liberal,” he said. That was true. They were.

Eleveld continued: “A more likely explanation is that Obama was still finding his groove, figuring out which levers worked best for him in the context of governing the nation. And in some ways, he was still developing the courage of his convictions.”

That, it turns out, was false. He wasn’t.

You can’t develop convictions that you don’t have in the first place.

It’s hard to remember now, more than six weeks later, but there was once a time (six long weeks ago) when liberal Democrats who naïvely chose to ignore Obama’s consistently conservative first term, his consistently conservative career in the Senate, and his consistently conservative pre-politics career as a University of Chicago law professor, seriously believed that his reelection would lead to a progressive second term.

“It’s time for President Obama to assume the Roosevelt-inspired mantle of muscular liberalism,” Anthony Woods wrote in The Daily Beast. “This is his moment. He only has to take it.”

It’s his moment, all right. And he’s taking it. But when it comes to Obama, liberals are once again guilty of some major wishful thinking. Obama’s economic policies are closer to Herbert Hoover than Franklin Roosevelt.

With re-election safely behind him, we hope Obama will be bolder in his second term,” Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen wrote in The Nation.

Again with the Hope!

Change, not so much.

Race doesn’t matter. Looks don’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. Style doesn’t matter. Only one thing matters when you’re electing a politician: policy. And the willingness and ability to carry it out. Everything you needed to know about Barack Obama boils down to the fact that he voted nine times out of ten to fund the Iraq war, at the same time that he was giving speech after speech pretending to oppose it. And that was before he won in 2008.

It didn’t take long for Obama to sell out the liberal base of his party the first time. Everything became clear in December 2008, when his cabinet picks didn’t include a single liberal. Well, here it is, December 2012, and can’t get fooled again but we did, as George W. Bush would sorta say.

Wait a minute: I thought Obama was a Democrat. So why is he appointing a Republican as secretary of defense? Not just a Republican, but a homophobe? In 1998 Republican Senator Chuck Hagel criticized President Clinton’s nominee for ambassador to the sensitive strategic hotbed of Luxembourg not only for being gay, but for being “openly, aggressively gay.” Gay rights groups demanded that Hagel “repudiate” his bigoted comments, and he dutifully did so, but the point is that a truly progressive Democratic president would never have appointed a gay-bashing right-wing Republican in the first place. Yeah, America has changed, but it wouldn’t be that hard to find a liberal Democrat who thought gays and lesbians were real human beings back in 1998.

The “fiscal cliff” negotiations have led to another replay of Obama’s 2008 sellout, this one on economic fairness. Throughout the 2012 campaign the president promised to raise taxes on the top 2% of American households, those earning over $250,000 a year. As of November 9th he was still “sticking to his guns,” calling his stance nonnegotiable. On December 17th, however, without the defeated Republicans even having to propose a counteroffer, Obama pulled a classic Democratic negotiating-against-himself maneuver. Not only did he offer House Speaker John Boehner to protect the spectacularly wealthy taxpayers who earn up to $400,000 from a tax hike, he quietly sold out senior citizens by gutting the current system that calculates cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other federal entitlement programs.

At first, few people would notice Obama’s switch to a so-called “chained consumer price index.” (Under the new system, if the price of steak goes up, the government assumes you’ll switch to hamburger—so it doesn’t count as inflation.) This year, for example, the inflation rate under the chained CPI is 0.3% less. But inflation is exponential and the effect is cumulative. By the time you hit age 92, you’d lose an entire month of Social Security benefits each year.

This, remember, was the president who was supposed to bust out as an FDR-style crusading liberal ready, willing and able to fight the right-wing Republicans and stand up for ordinary Americans.

The good news is, the anticipation is over. Liberals who worried that Obama would sell them out need worry no more. Not so deep down, they knew this would happen. Now they can settle down for four more years of depressing Republican-lite kowtowing to corporations and the one percent.

I know what they’re thinking. Things would be even worse if Mitt Romney had won.

I wouldn’t be so sure.

Policy-wise, a Romney administration would have been pretty much the same as Obama’s second term. Who knows, he might have picked Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.

In terms of building the political Left, a President Romney would have galvanized liberals and progressives to fight for a fairer society that treats everyone equally and with dignity. Obama, his sellouts, and his faux liberal apologists represent two steps backwards for progressivism.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is


14 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Fooled Again

  1. Why are so constantly focused on the President? Yes – I know that history has shown us presidents have forced one or another issue in the past, but these guys didn’t usually do this against a huge powerful bloc or people that were against it – most of the time it was for issues that actually had been controversial and stood the chance of having a great amount of popular support – not an action that most of the nation even was not really aware of, or understood (sheep) – like now. Why do we consistently ignore our Legislative branch? – Our congress and senate – the people who are supposed to consider and pass the laws or changes we want? This is another example of Wild West Thinking – that obama should “corral” these horsethieves himself, and just “shoot them down”. If I was a fat cat or a powerful international corporation like Monsanto or others, I would want you to do as you are doing – focus on the President, and I’d put billions into influencing you to do this – thus keeping your eyes off the real people responsible. Hey! – Come on ted and Susan, let’s go after the President! Follow me! Let’s lynch the guy! (forget about all them that congressmans, senactors and politically powerful influential corpse – let’s focus on beating a dead horse!

  2. Rikster,

    If you voted for Obama because he was better to you than Romney, fine. But don’t make excuses for him.

    In regards to Congress, it is up the individual constituents of each Congressperson. We can only influence those who represent us. But Obama is the highest representative in the land, which makes his actions the most important. Thus the focus on him.

  3. “We really can’t expect anything from the most powerful person in the world,
    President O ba-aa-aaa-aaaa ma.”

  4. Anyone who thinks a Romney administration would be the same policy wise as an Obama one is

    a) not paying attention
    b) didn’t read or listen to a word Romney said during the campaign
    c) too ideologically blind to see straight
    d) all of the above.

  5. @Whimsical

    Please keep holding Obama’s nuts the fire in the way that only you can. I’m sure he’s about to cave any minute now and stop those sociopathic Republicans from destroying Social Security by cutting 112 billion from the program. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  6. Whim,

    You’re right about a Romney Administration, but that’s only half of the issue. Or two-thirds.

    Anyone can be a leader when it’s easy. The great leaders are the ones who lead through adverse times. Obama, by any possible measure, is not a great leader. Nor does he seem to really give a good goddamn whether any of us live or die. Case in point: the Fiscal Cliff. But the cliff’s real point?

    The cliff is, for lack of a more-tasteful metaphor, the Republicans showing everyone that they can bend Obama over and make him their bitch. The cliff was never about the cliff. The cliff was about showing everyone who is in charge. And, barring a miracle (or Obama simply giving in to every demand of the Republicans), we’ll all be marched off that cliff very soon.

    But don’t worry. There’s surely more coming. What with the dithering uncertainty of the Obama administration hesitating every step of the way.

  7. Hold up a sec – Let’s take a look at what this “cliff” is. Seems to me that it is the expiration of a lot of the tax cuts that helped get us into this mess. It also seems to entail a good amount of reduction in military spending. Maybe we shouldn’t call it a cilff – because that term gets a knee-jerk reaction in a knee-jerk reaction society. Maybe it should be called what it is – automatic expiration of Bush tax cuts and military spending. – and yes, it will also show how the GOP is holding the country hostage. Yes – it may cause grief in the stock market or economy because it threatens the type of FIAT capitalism that got us here – spend, spend, spend – more debt, more debt, more debt.

  8. Yes – Obama is the highest representative in the land, and as someone else said “he is the President” after all! So – Obama should suspend all salaries for the Congress and Senate, immediately veto or block all military spending to continue the “police actions” and drone operations – since they are not offishal wars. As Commander and Chief – order the immediate return of all troops and military from the Middle East, suspend all printing of new money by the FED, and force a return to the Gold Standard, making it illegal for banks to “create money” by creating more debt. Yeah, that’ll work, and I think that it’ll create what Ted has suggested, a nation that will be glad to be able to buy ground beef, let alone a steak. Fat chance of any of this happening – the military-industrial complex as well as those making a living off the “police actions” will explode into what they really are – leeches living off the ignorance of our society.

  9. @Alex-

    Is Obama a great leader? I don’t know- that’s for history to decide, not me. I will say that, in large part to the failed electoral policies of the left for the past 40 years, Obama was the best person that actually could’ve gotten the job at this time.

    Until the left _gets_ that, and changes their attitudes and strategy to change the system so that someone more liberal (which is what they really mean when they say “better”) then Obama to get elected, they are doomed to disappointment.

    But judging from the responsesI get here, the left would seem to prefer tantruming/breaking their own arm patting themselves on the back (“I yelled at the meanie Obama! I’m such a good person, yes I am! I just don’t understand why no-one is listening to me, because I’m such a good person!”) to actually making progress.

  10. @Alex-

    And as for the fiscal cliff- who is it that’s standing in the way of a deal to prevent it? Oh yeah-Republicans. As usual, your anger is misplaced.

  11. Whim,

    Absolutely, the Fiscal Cliff is due to Republican intransigence. They are deliberately being obstructionist. We are in agreement on that.

    My point is that blame often does not fall on the person or persons who are actually responsible. The Republicans will cause this crisis and Joe Lunchbucket and Sally Housecoat will blame the Democrats, in no small part, because they are the ones perceived to be in charge.

    That there’s a system of checks and balances and so forth isn’t going to work as an excuse. Partly because it is a system of checks and balances. There are ways for Obama to balance the check — or check the balance — that the Republicans have made with their Cliff move.

    So, Republicans make a mess, the president and his party fail to respond vigorously — I was just watching Reid on CSPAN making a mildly outraged speech, goodness me, heavens to Betsy — and the Republicans will either get a last-minute cave-in (which means they will be able to get everything they want for the remaining three and three-quarter years), or they will have the delight, in a few months, of “criticizing” the president for not compromising with them over the Fiscal Cliff. I can picture the White House’s response already: “Mr. Obama, on the 16th green, expressed his dismay,” intoned a blow-dried talking head reading off the teleprompter for a major “news” service. “Well, Golly, you know, I need folks to understand that Michelle and I, and our two daughters, Malia and Sasha, and Bo, are really concerned about this Fiscal Cliff thing. But we really tried hard to get it resolved. John Reid’s pulse almost hit 90 while he was begging like a crackwhore for the Republicans to come back to D.C. and resolve the issue.”

    Image counts for a lot in politics. And the Dems are looking more and more like they just don’t understand why they can’t wear pocket protectors.

  12. @Whimsical

    You’re doing such a good job of bitch-slapping Obama into preserving Social Security and getting the rich to pay their taxes like they should’ve been doing all along. You’re such an inspiration to all of us temper-tantrum lefties. Tell us, what’s your secret? We voted for Obama, but the whole “keeping up the pressure on our elected officials” part just escapes me. If protesting and writing letters doesn’t work, then what does, exactly?

  13. There was never much chance that we *wouldn’t * go off the “cliff”. It was designed such that we would. Designed by Obama & Co, not the GOP. Not to worry though. It’s all a charade. In a couple of days, the GOP can say they’re cutting taxes and the Pentagon will not take a hit.

    BTW – In 2008, Obama said he would appoint Republicans to his administration. As unappealing as that is, it’s not a surprise.

    BTW again – In 2008, Obama said “I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” He didn’t sound like a peacenik. How was anyone fooled?

    BTW again – I’ve never even heard of the four delusional “progressive” writers that you’ve named, so I’m not sure whose ideas they actually represent. I really don’t believe that very many people voted for Obama because they thought he was a closet lib. They voted against the party of hate and greed.